I have 16 inches of blown-in insulation over 4 inches of batting in my house. The walls are insulated, along with new windows and doors, as well as a high efficiency furnace. It’s cozy. And so are the bee colonies that live in old trees, they have 8 to 10 inches of wood insulation on the sides and many feet on the top and bottom of the hive.
But what about my back yard bee hives? All they have is a half inch of wood for insulation. Not cozy! Yes they say it’s moisture not cold that kills bees. But if they have to eat more stores to keep warm, it takes its toll. So why not insulate your hives?
I use a special hive body. It has a screened bottom , screened over side holes and an open top. You place it on the top of the hive and fill it with hamster bedding. Then cover with the inner and outer cover. I call it the ‘attic’. This both insulates the major heat loss area and allows for ventilation. Yes you can leave it on year around.
These ‘attics’ are available from the big suppliers as well as local ones. I like the ones from Buggs Nest West (Galesburg, MI) (see the resource/equipment page). They have full screen bottoms. The ones with small holes get propolized.
As for the sides, I use 2″ thick Foamular R-10 ridge pink insulation. It comes in 4×8 sheets and easy to cut with a hand saw. A little pricy, around $35 a sheet, but should do two hives and last for years. 6′ bungee cords hold it on. If you don’t like pink, spray it green or your favorite color. Make sure it does not cover the entrance or the ‘attic’ vent holes.
Add to this your slide-in bottom board, if yours is not solid, and the entrance reducer. Feed if you like (that’s another blog, stay tuned).
One more tip. Want to see if your hive is alive in mid-winter?. Get out that old stethoscope, and bang on the hive. Hope you hear angry bees. If you’re lucky some guards will come out and chase you back to the cozy fire place.